What else can you do if not an MBA 👔?
An exhaustive list of ideas 💡
Note- This article contextualizes what you can do while staying in India instead of pursuing an Indian MBA.
The main focus of this article is about what you can do AFTER you have decided that you don’t want an MBA. There could be various personal, financial, and merit reasons for your decisions. Without touching upon those contexts, let us see what other creative, innovative, equivalent experiences you can chase after you have made that decision.
I assume either of these things in this article:
- You are either a student in your undergrad or a young adult in your 20s, having a stable job with decent pay and a work-life balance.
- You are not interested in traditional education.
- You have enough free time to think about other things after completing your day job work.
- You prefer to be debt free.
As with all the articles I write, these are just some of the many perspectives. They may not necessarily be valid in all contexts. With that said, let’s look at what you can do.
1. Deep Networking 🤝🏽
This part is for everyone who considers an MBA a great networking opportunity.
Ever wondered how deep you can build your network on the internet? It is virtually limitless to such an extent that you could influence groups worldwide.
What exactly does deep networking even mean?
It’s a term I correlate with when I have to describe an effort made to be an active part of an “ecosystem” you do not directly belong to.
For a student, it would be something like being part of-
- A closed network of entrepreneurs/investors and other high-visibility individuals. (Eg. Being in the WhatsApp group of CEOs of high-growth startups)
- A content distribution list of stakeholders of interest, and vice-versa (Eg. You follow a top-level stakeholder on LinkedIn, and the catch is they also follow you)
- A network of peer groups outside your college and from across the globe. (Eg. Being active with the student clubs of Harvard/MIT while studying in India or being part of an alumni ecosystem of a University you didn’t attend)
How do you even achieve this level of networking? There are three key things you should focus on:
- Being proactive in finding networking groups and events
- Creating something new
- Showing other people what you did
How can you do deep networking?
- Attend meetups, conferences, and events offline/online. Many online platforms and communities help you scout for events based on your interest. A lot is happening at both the corporate and academic levels.
- Join online communities on Discord, Telegram, Reddit, Facebook, etc., and interact with people around.
- Use LinkedIn properly. How? That will take another whole article. But trust me. Don’t underestimate the platform.
- Ask people to add to their networking groups. Did you know that so much deep networking happens on WhatsApp?
- Sign up for the mailing lists and social media accounts of organizations of your interest to keep active communication. Interact and reply to the content these organizations create. For example, if you are into consulting, you can sign up for the mailing list or socials of the Wharton/Harvard Consulting Club or other similar communities.
Remember, if you don’t ask, the answer is always a NO. If you don’t explore, you will never know. — Tweet this 👆
Almost everyone loves to be around proactive and optimistic people.
2. Deep Exploration 💭
I keep telling this all the time.
Awareness is power in a world where information is everywhere. — Tweet this 👆
Awareness helps us in figuring out a lot of things. How to navigate your career? How to network? How to switch your job? How to build something? Where is your next opportunity? Where to find the answers? Awareness helps you guide yourself better.
Think of it this way. You fail even without trying if you are unaware of a particular opportunity or path.
How to build a strong awareness of the world around us?
The answer is deep exploration.
- The internet makes it a lot easier than ever before. Spend time every day reading the internet.
- No, not some random stuff but actual news and things that impact the world. Many unique websites, newsletters, and creators can help you with it.
- Please make it a habit to intentionally search for content on the internet about things you like to monitor. Keep google alerts. Bookmark specific sites and visit them frequently.
- Ask questions and seek answers regularly. Be consciously curious. Take help for mentors or friends to keep you as such when you slack off.
- Dive deep into the various internet forums (like Reddit) to understand the trends and people at the grassroots level.
Over time, you will accumulate so much knowledge and train the algorithms that run the internet to give you even more awareness and wisdom. B-schools bring a lot of awareness to their campuses, and you have to seek it out yourself instead of waiting for it to come to you if you don’t want to take the traditional route.
3. Alternate Programs ➡️
These days, so many alt programs have come up. I won’t name any, but a simple google search should lead you to many boot camps, masterclasses, courses, and whatnot.
You may explore these things if you are looking for structured stuff at a lesser cost. The good programs give all the benefits we discussed here. Networking, awareness, exploration, job switch support, and portfolio-building.
Most of these programs are shorter than two years and cost a fraction of an MBA. Up to you to explore and decide if that’s a path you are looking at.
4. Using Money to Practically Learn Things 💰
You can do so many things with money and still spend nowhere near a b-school expense.
- If you want to understand online advertising, buy actual Google and Facebook ads, explore other ad networks, and run some campaigns (you can promote yourself too). You will understand so much more by doing things at the ground level.
- Buy a domain name, put out a landing page, and try to build an e-commerce store or something. Test the waters. See how things are.
- Spend on some conference tickets for your domain.
- Make offline sales of something simple if you like.
- Build your merch and sell it to understand sourcing, supply chain, and D2C commerce.
- If you are into product management like stuff, use software, buy templates, and stuff to write your PRDs and design documents.
- Invest, trade, and file your taxes to grasp some financial concepts.
You can use the money to gain exposure and experience in many other ways. It costs significantly less too. Once again, awareness of how to do it for your context helps.
Buying a domain name, setting up a merch store, and using ads to market it costs lesser than 10–15K INR to do a dry run exploration.
5. Building A Portfolio 🦄
You have to show people what you can do to make them pay attention to you and give you chances.
That’s what a portfolio does. You can build it entirely on your own or/and take the help of some mentors and online/offline courses.
I would always encourage doing your own thing as that will make you more self-driven, and you will have exact control of how you do things.
If you can show people that you can do the very thing they are hiring for, the chances of opportunities knocking on your door are incredibly high.
Let us say you are interested in consulting or some research analyst roles. If you can show people that you can build a case, make excellent presentations and write reports better than the ones that actual working consultants publish, you will stand out easily. Nobody except you stops you from doing this. Pick a topic, research, contact people and get information if needed, document it on the internet, and show it off on social media.
This works for almost any field out there in a way.
How exactly can you get started?
Read the job descriptions of the roles you like. Observe the people you want to be like and see their actions. Imagine yourself already in that role and work it out.
Let’s take some examples.
- Do you want to be a front-end engineer? Check some JD and see what tech stack they use. Go to that tech's official documentation and tutorials and replicate them to learn the basics. Then make changes to build your websites. That will be your portfolio. You can then show people the websites you built and get hired for doing the same.
- Do you want to be a consultant? Go to the website of any consulting firm out there. Read the JDs and observe what people are doing there. Follow the work of some of the employees on LinkedIn, Youtube, or Twitter. You will likely understand the cases they work on and see the reports they write. These firms also publish many public reports that you can take inspiration from. Using such things as a reference, create your case, simulate it if you must, and write your report. Publish it online. Do a video presentation and put it on YouTube. Do 3–5 cases like this, and that’s your portfolio.
- Likewise, apply a similar approach to any similar profession you like to explore. You will find ways to do it.
6. A Job Switch 🚀
This is for people who want to do something else (because they are unhappy with their current job) or to get higher pay. If you feel an MBA is great to 2X or 3X your salary, a job switch can do the same too. Most times, the conclusion of an MBA also comes with a job switch via placements.
In an open talent market, you can always try for a job to switch to whatever domain you want. You can pivot or get a pay raise or both.
Try and test the waters.
- Deep networking can help you get referrals.
- Deep exploration can help you understand where opportunities are there and how to approach them.
- A good portfolio will help you catch the attention of people interested in hiring you.
Combine all of this, and you will go places. Once again, if you don’t try, you will never know.
Getting a job in a different domain than your degree without an MBA is possible. Say you are from a civil engineering background or another field. You can still get jobs in many domains like analytics, software, data science, product management, investment banking, finance, trading, consulting, marketing, sales, and private equity. If you want proof, go to LinkedIn and check the profiles of people working on this stuff. You will find examples.
I have personally seen many.
It is just that many are not aware of new and emerging paths. You may probably start at a lower level or a lesser-known firm, but you have the opportunities to work in those domains, learn and grow with work experience.
On the other side, if you are good enough, you can always start up as a freelancer getting your clients by using the same tactics. We are very much there in a skill-based economy.
7. Being A Content Creator ✍️
Content creation in 2022 is lucrative and packages everything we discussed so far into one thing.
- You can create content about anything you want to do or learn.
- Your content is also your portfolio. If it is good enough, people will pay attention to you.
- You automatically create a distribution network that you can use for many things. No matter what you do or where you work, it has some intrinsic value in driving marketing, branding, and even sales and PR.
- Content increases your visibility. That, in turn, helps you deepen your network and access to people. You will start getting approached by many and get entry to premium networking events and groups.
And in most cases, creating content about things you like is more straightforward than getting an MBA. It just depends on how self-motivated you are.
We all create content with everything we do, even if we haven’t realized it yet. I understand that some people dislike associating content with themselves for various reasons. Hence it ends up being unorganized and unstructured. I see a wasted opportunity where the pros outweigh the cons.
But anyways, to each their own. Personal context also plays a role. Yes, all of it is content, but it need not be if we don’t want to look at it that way.
Not all the time.
If you don’t want to do an MBA, you have to do something else to upskill yourself. We have explored some options.
If you are a self-learner and want more hardcore knowledge, you can read all the textbooks and courses of some Wharton or Harvard business schools. All the curriculum data is in the public domain. If you take the content creator path and find some success, you can also do podcasts with people you like to learn from, like industry experts and professors.
You could gather a group of people and do case studies or whatever you want. You can simulate your MBA program for fun. Lots of possibilities out there.
All of it depends on our mindset. At least, that’s what the current version of me believes in.
There are a few things to be mindful of in the end.
- Do not fixate on nouns (like specific job roles or companies) and limit your opportunities. You should grab any good opportunity that comes your way after you have implemented the ideas discussed here. You have to gain that valuable work experience first.
- For example, if you target to work at McKinsey as a Junior Associate, the probability of it without being at a college where they hire young grads is low. But, remove the nouns, and the probability of being a professional consultant is very high. You can always maximize your chance by gaining work experience and accolades in the industry and then trying for firms you want to work with.
- It is plausible to think that the ideas shared here are exceptions. Not everyone can do it. However, try it out, fail, and then tell. Keeping a growth mindset can help a lot.
But yes, the stuff we explored in this article may not be feasible for everyone. You must reflect on what applies to you and what you can consciously choose to do.
I have done almost everything I mentioned in this article, been part of such ecosystems, and seen how things work closely in other people’s experiences, too.
If you want to discuss further or seek more answers to how exactly you can do these things in your domain of interest, feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn and send your queries.
Also, if there is some other type of benefit of an MBA you would like to get without doing an MBA, feel free to hit me up. I will collect all of them and make part two of the article.